Next month’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas will have a significant U.S. presence, not only with the addition of Corvette Racing and Extreme Speed Motorsports to the grid but also a few notable American star drivers joining the world-class field, including Jeff Segal.
The three-time GRAND-AM champion will make his FIA WEC debut, having been called up by the AF Corse-run 8Star Motorsports outfit to take the place of team owner Enzo Potolicchio, who has withdrawn from the remainder of the season as a driver.
Segal, a Ferrari ace who won this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with Level 5 Motorsports, will join Italians Paolo Ruberti and Gianluca Roda in the team’s GTE-Am Ferrari F458 Italia, which is coming off a fourth place class finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It feels like the stars have aligned for this deal to come together,” Segal told Sportscar365. “I know Enzo very well from the Ferrari Challenge series and I have worked with the lead engineer on the 8Star Ferrari, Massimo Pollini, a few times in Europe through Michelotto as well.
“I’m really thankful that Amato Ferrari, Enzo, and my co-drivers Gianluca and Paolo have given me this fantastic opportunity to join their effort. It really just feels like a very natural fit.”
COTA will mark the 29-year-old’s first race start since the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March, where he teamed with Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Maurizio Mediani for a runner-up finish in the GTD class, in what was AIM Autosport’s first start after taking over the Level 5 entry.
Segal, though, has stayed busy with driver coaching, with Level 5 in Ferrari Challenge and the Ferrari Driving Experience in Mont-Tremblant, while also helping develop the new Ferrari 458 Challenge “Evo” car at circuits across North America.
“Although I have been getting plenty of seat time when we have gone testing this year, I am really craving the competitive environment after some time away,” he said. “The level of competition in the GTE-Am class of the WEC looks fantastic and our 8Star team seems to have all of the ingredients to run at the front of this class.
“I know my co-drivers Paolo, Gianluca and the whole team are hungry for a good result after a slightly difficult start of the year, so my goal is to do whatever I can to help the team.
“So far I have only raced twice this year, but in those two races, we won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and came within a few seconds of winning at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, so it would be nice to keep that front-running record going in this important race.”
While having been left on the sidelines for much of the year, Segal, who is rated as a Silver driver by the FIA, is hoping the COTA round could be a springboard to additional FIA WEC outings later this year with AF Corse/8Star, with the target of competing next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“The WEC is a series that has always been at the top of my to-do list, and I’m most excited that I get to make my series debut on what feels like home turf at COTA,” he said. “I want to put more effort into competing in some of the major international races and Championships.
“Hopefully things go well for us in the race and then my focus will shift to what needs to happen to stay in the WEC for future races and even seasons to come.
“Obviously AF Corse and 8Star have a proven track record as winners and they are the current World Champions in WEC, so my goal is to do the best possible job for them behind the wheel and hope that this is enough to keep doors open for future races.
“I want to be racing in this championship and I especially want to be racing at Le Mans next year, so I’m hoping that this race is just the beginning of something much bigger.”